Acts 11:17-18 “So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”
When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
This was an absolutely pivotal moment in the early Church. When you think about it, there were many moments in those first few years when the whole thing could easily have been derailed, but God didn’t let it happen. We need to remember that God is in control! That doesn’t eliminate our responsibility, much less accountability, but it should eliminate our anxiety. We tend to get that backward! We try to deny responsibility and accountability, and instead be anxious about everything. What happened here laid the foundation for the Church later accepting Paul’s ministry to Gentiles, as explained in Acts 15, and in short order the vast majority of the Church was Gentile. Paul went to great lengths in his letter to the Romans to explain that doesn’t mean God has abandoned the Jews, which is particularly significant considering the bulk of Paul’s ministry was to Gentiles. However, this episode with Peter established the principle that God’s provision of the Holy Spirit, bringing repentance unto life, is for all who will believe. We are quick to put up barriers of all sorts, but God is after repentance and faith. Anyone who exhibits those (actually, receiving faith as a gift when they repent of unbelief) is acceptable to God, regardless of the ethnic, racial, financial, or any other sort of background.
Growing up as a decidedly minority Caucasian in Japan, this understanding has come easily for me. I am grateful that Truman mandated the racial integration of US armed forces before I started attending school at Itazuke Air Force Base so I was never aware of racial segregation. That said, I was aware of some missionaries who had an automatic bias in favor of Caucasians, even though there were some Caucasian missionaries who disgraced the name of Christ. My own biases tended to be intellectual, but that’s not really any better. It is sadly obvious that those who are in favor of “big government” have such bias, feeling that they know better than the “unwashed masses” who “cling to their guns and religion.” I may have a higher than average IQ, but on God’s scale, all human distinctions are essentially meaningless. I am to accept each person as they are, as a valuable creation of God, and seek to help them enter into the relationship with Him for which they were created.
Father, thank You for the degree to which You have enabled me to see people equally. Thank You for helping me realize I still have room to grow. Help me express Christ accurately and consistently to all, drawing them to You for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!